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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Hurricane Sandy began as a tropical wave in the Caribbean on October 19.  She reached Category 2 status after passing Cuba, leaving 65 dead at that point.  This was said to be the largest hurricane ever in diameter at 1100 milwa, although Donna could have been larger in the Atlantic, and Typhoon Tip in the Pacific was measured at 1380 miles, the distance from Los Angeles to Houston.  While not any more a hurricane, the storm is now slowly moving mostly north and causing more damage.  

A storm is a hurricane when cyclonic with constant winds of at least 74 MPH.  Category 2 begins at 96 MPH.  Wind gusts of more than 80 MPH were experienced as far north as Rhode Island.  Mount Washington (6288 feet) in New Hampshire recorded a peak of 140 MPH, but this is nothing compared to a 1934 reading of 231 MPH.

Sandy was not the most damaging storm ever, for that was Katrina at more than $100 billion (in 1926 hurricane "Miami" caused damages exceeding $150 billion--these early storms are generally not included in comparative assessments).  However, now already making the list at $25 billion, the expectation is an ultimate cost of as much as $45 billion, which would overtake #2 Ike at $37.6 billion.

Eight and a half million households lost power, and the blackout remains at 6PM eastern daylight (remember, you need set your clock back an hour on Saturday night) time for more than 6 million.  The power loss for Hurricane Irene was about the same.  

There were more than 100 deaths, 65 in the Caribbean and at least 50 in the U.S.   Haiti experienced 54 fatalities.

Up to 3 feet of snow fell on parts of West Virginia and Maryland, there was up to a foot of rain, waves on Lake Michigan exceeded 20 feet, and the storm surge rose to a highest ever 14 feet over Battery Park, crippling the subway system.   There is no word on when the subways normally carrying 8.5 million per day will begin full service.  Limited travel has already begun and there is no charge at this time.

 Tunnels connecting the city to New Jersey and Brooklyn are still closed, but the bridges are all operating.  Opening night for the NBA Brooklyn Nets at their new Barclays Center was postponed:

But the New York Marathon, with maybe not quite 50,000 participants, will be run on Sunday:

New Jersey and New York are on the road to recovery with an expected $35 billion of restoration funds.  Even Governor Chris Christie (R-New Jersey), a key supporter of Mitt Romney, publicly thanked President Barack Obama (D-USA) for the personal call and federal assistance.  It sometimes takes a monumental crisis for people to work together.

callisThe star of the hurricane crisis, in my mind, is Lydia Callis (left).  You need to watch her stealing the show from Mayor Bloomberg.  He also has a second sign-language lady who is almost as good.  They are the viral treats.

Finally, if you see people in scary costumes, this is just Halloween.  Perfect for my annual quota of Monster Mash.  Very high fidelity, indeed, but the following is more entertaining.  Here is Bobby Boris Picket, who co-wrote this song in 1962 (which became #1 in the country just before Halloween that year).  This was the during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I kind of associate one with the other.  Can you believe that was half a century ago?

Halloween Honolulu featured a nice sunset:

With a spectacular Green Flash at the end.  Next, I'll someday show you what this looks like.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I went to see Cloud Atlas, then did some shopping at Whole Foods Kahala.  I bought three items:

On top, Dragon Fruit (0.5 pounds), to the left a small chunk of Moliterno Black Truffles Cheese, and to the right, Pine Nuts (0.20 pounds).  Can you guess which of the four, including a ticket to Cloud Atlas, was the most expensive?

The comparison:

    Pine Nuts            $6.24
    Cloud Atlas        $8.00
    Cheese                $8.24
    Dragon Fruit       $9.06

The pine nuts were okay, the truffle cheese not worth it and dragon fruit a worthy experience.  I bought it because my posting this weekend on My Day in Chinatown lamented that I did not.  I've seen this fruit in marketplaces throughout the Orient, and never tried it.  

Chances are most of you never learned how to prepare this fruit.  First cut it lengthwise in half:

Then spoon out the flesh in one piece.  You are cautioned NOT to eat the skin, and should scrape off any bit of pink.  Why?  Various articles cite high levels of toxins.  Yikes...but the same articles rave about the health benefits:

  -  good for low cholesterol diet

  -  high in vitamins C, B1 and B2

  -  high in anti-oxidants

  -  high in fiber

  -  neutralizes heavy metals in your body

  -  reduces blood pressure

  -  contains a protein to maintain cardiovascular health

Except for not being green, the dragon fruit looks, tastes and has the same texture as kiwi fruit.  However, the former is a cactus and the latter comes from a tree:

Anyway, I can get at least six bananas for one dragon fruit, so this might be my final purchase.  On the other hand, I wonder what this costs in Chinatown?

Cloud Atlas is just about three hours long, and, while ambitious, if not staggering, they tried to do too much with six "interconnected" stories at different points in the past and future.  The switching back and forth in time without much meaning (to me) was confusing.   One story was filmed in Hawaii.  Again, this was like A Sound of Thunder, in that any act can shape the future.  Best as I could figure out, there is such a thing as a soul, which evolves over time.  At least the Cloud Atlas Sextet did transcend time, and, perhaps, music is one variation of what might be a soul.

Rotten Tomatoes indicated that reviewers gave it a 63% rating, while audiences averaged 77%.  I doubt if the film will earn more than $140 million, the cost of production.

I fell asleep a couple of times and was dismayed that Tom Hanks and Halle Berry were mostly tedious.  Hugh Grant is in all six stories, except you wouldn't recognize him.  Here is one role:

I equate Cloud Atlas with The Tree of Life.   What does Cloud Atlas mean?  Not sure, but something  to do with the universality of human nature, whatever that means.  Maybe I should go see it a second time.


Monday, October 29, 2012


On October 25 I cautioned that Hurricane Sandy would be an unusual mixture of snow and wind over the Northeast portion of the country.  Mathematical models already had her making landfall, and the following day, the consensus was projected to be over New Jersey.  I further speculated that if you drew a line between D.C. and New York City, the eye would pass just about in the middle.  As this distance is just a tad over 200 miles, both would face the full effects because a large cyclone as Sandy can have hurricane force winds out to 175 miles.

Well, give those modelers a lot of credit, for their predictive track has been eerily accurate.  One unexpected development, though, is that while most meteorologists thought Sandy would slightly weaken from 75 MPH before striking the coastline as cooler waters are encountered, they are now calling this an extra-tropical storm, where the power is driven by temperature contrasts in the atmosphere, for the sustained wind speed is now up to 90 MPH.  The middle of the eye could well cross right over Atlantic City, which is 96 miles from New York City.

In comparison, Hurricane Irene (left) in August of last year crossed North Carolina as a Category 1, turned back into the Atlantic, then, the next day, as a tropical storm, crossed back into New Jersey, then out, and, finally, over Brooklyn, New York.  At close to $16 billion, this was the fifth most expensive hurricane.

Hurricane Grace and The Perfect Storm also on Halloween in 1991 never made landfall in the USA.  The total damage was $200 million.

Sandy is expected to cause more grief and damage than Irene.  Major east coast cities have largely shut down.  This is a day off in D.C., New York City and Boston.  Tomorrow could well continue this "holiday."  You don't want to fly through these areas for the next few days as airports are shut down, and so are all subways.  This not well-mentioned, but 16 nuclear power plants are in the path of Sandy.  While the cause was an earthquake and tsunami, remember Fukushima?  Whew, but the oldest nuclear facility in the country at Oyster Creek, New Jersey closed down for maintenance last week.

New York City could well face a 12 feet tidal surge at high tide tonight.  The greatest danger will be in the period from 10PM to midnight when the tide peaks.  Remember that the noon-3PM quadrant of any counter clockwise turning hurricane moving west is the region that is most affected.  This would be Long Island and Manhattan.  According to one source:

But now New York City is really flooding and, unless a miracle happens in the next few hours, NOAA says this will be "widespread damaging storm, possibly of historic proportions." Perhaps the biggest ever in the region. This could be the storm that kills the New York subway system.

Another factor about NYC is that the wind speed is 30% higher from floors 80-100.  The force on the windows is a squared effect, so therefore, the effect will be 170% that at street level.  I live at the 30 story level, and this force is just under 1.5 compared to the ground.  In my lifetime, though, no hurricane has reached Honolulu.  That photo to the left is a dangling crane (at 1000 feet) of the future tallest residential building in the NYC.

Hurricane Sandy has already killed 65 in the Caribbean and  60 million more people will feel the consequences.  (Edge of Sandy a few days ago.). Rainfall might reach a foot and snowfall maybe a yard (most probably in West Virginia).  The anticipation is that electricity could be out for some as long as ten days.  States from Virginia to Illinois to Maine and others between will suffer.

Of all the things, Sandy could become that crucial factor towards the re-election of Barack Obama, for even 1% will make a difference in those determining states, and this national disaster provides a leadership podium for the President, while Romney can only wait.  I have already received a personal e-mail about this crisis from him, as no doubt did a hundred million or so others.



Sunday, October 28, 2012


Last night, as I was getting settled after a fine dinner, there came this sudden and piercing sound from my TV set, a warning message from Civil Defense, alerting the viewers about an incoming tsunami.  At 7:07 PM Hawaii time, a 7.7 moment magnitude (MM) earthquake struck the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia. A tsunami was generated. I heard the sirens!

Twenty months ago I reported in the Huffington Post on the tsunami generated by the Chile 8.8 MM earthquake. Hilo, in particular, was concerned because the 1960 Great Chilean Earthquake of MM 9.5 (the greatest in recorded history) generated a 35 foot tsunami and killed 61.  Interestingly enough, I posted this article from my hotel room in Amsterdam, for CNN fed me the unfolding story, including live webcam views of both Waikiki Beach and Hilo Harbor. Many of my friends in Hawaii fled to the hills and were out of communication.

Well that tsunami only attained a height of two feet because the 8.8 MM earthquake was less than one-tenth as powerful as that 9.5 MM earthquake. For details on how to calculate the difference between any two earthquakes, click on "A Few Things You Should Know About Earthquakes."

Then, on 11March2011 I was in Japan and reported on how I had to contend with that Great Tohoku 9.0 Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster. Just some recent history to lead you into the present.

Should Hawaii have been concerned about this 7.7 MM from Canada, their largest since 1700? My first thought was that the epicenter sounded awfully close to that feared Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), and, in fact, when I Google-checked, that 1700 quake was called the Cascadia Earthquake.  How imminent and serious is a mega-earthquake from the CSZ? Oregon and Washington would be crippled. However, all indications are that the Queen Charlotte Fault is not connected to the CSZ.

Anyway, about this latest, I suspected the tsunami would not amount to much because the energy released by this 7.7 tremor was all of 45 times weaker than the 8.8 of 2010 and 500 times less energetic than that world record 9.5 of 1960. Scientific sense told me that that the tsunami would be no more than a foot or two.

But you never know, for Canada is closer to us than Chile, so it would have been idiocy to go for any late night swim or await the incoming surf on a board, which, of course, some did. Certainly, it was only smart to keep away from beaches and the coastline.
However, signs from early deep ocean gauges, called DART buoys, seemed to indicate that the tsunami height might be higher than what would normally be expected from a 7.7. How high? Four to six feet on the newscasts, which is significant and potentially damaging. It was almost like some Hollywood screenwriter expanding the truth for the sake of drama. The later explanation is that there are so few earthquakes from this location that the only gauges they could refer to were peripheral.

Specifically, Kahului Harbor on Maui faced the incoming wave, Hilo was also somewhat in the path, the windward side of Oahu would be exposed and the east side of Kauai had to be careful. Then, oh great, at 10:28 PM when the wave was to strike, there were people walking around near Waikiki Beach on a live TV webcam, and there was no one around to chase them away because the police and fire staff had already evacuated.

While Waikiki is on the other side of the Oahu, if the tsunami is major, there is a wrap-around effect. Plus, a five foot tsunami wave is totally different from a normal five foot wave. The tsunami wave stays 5 feet high for hundreds of yards. Finally, the second to sixth wave can be even higher than the first. While some early projections hinted that the tsunami was specifically headed for Hawaii (graphics to the left used by local TV stations--something that I found hard to believe), this information appeared to be provided by the scientific authorities being interviewed, so there had to be some authenticity.

Well, it is the following morning. No one died, there was minimal damage and some excitement. BUT, COULD THIS 7.7 CANADIAN EARTHQUAKE JUST BE A TEASER FOR A 9.0 CSZ, as this fault is very similar to that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tragedy and 2011 Tohoku cataclysm? To quote:

...a 10% to 14% probability that the Cascadia Subduction Zone will produce an even or magnitude 9 or higher in the next 50 years.

Sandy is still a hurricane at 75 MPH, and is still scheduled to bring wind, floods and snow to the the northeast part of the USA. My posting of 25October12 provides details.

However, the latest tracking shows Sandy skirting south of New York City. We'll see in two days.


Saturday, October 27, 2012


I've been to at least 25 Chinatowns around the world.  Chinatownology lists only 28, but there are a lot more, for New York nor Honolulu is not even mentioned.  These enclaves can be traced as far back as 1594 in Manila (left), and soon after in Nagasaki and central Vietnam.  Wherever trade and labor involved a critical mass of Chinese, a Chinatown was born.  San Francisco might be the most famous: 

However, there are three in New York City and throughout Europe, Africa and rest of the world.  Even towns in China look, smell and sound like these foreign copies.

I live a mile away from the one in Honolulu, so decided to take a walk there for exercise and a little shopping.  Ours began in the late 1700's, but only gained prominence when the sugar industry began importing laborers from China in the 1800's.  In 1900 7,000 residents of the area (56% Chinese) were quarantined because of bubonic plague, and a couple of buildings were set on fire.  Unfortunately, with the Honolulu Fire Department standing by, the winds shifted and most of the neighborhood was destroyed.  Chinatown was rebuilt, and many of the buildings are now more than a century old.  This was the Red Light District during World War II and the years following.  This now is a revitalized artsy site with a fancily restored Hawaii Theater.

Thus, I left my apartment and took photos of the Japanese Consulate and Foster Botanical Park along the way:

Distressingly for me, the early portion of this walk is a path I took several times each day to visit Pearl in Kuakini Hospital, something that cannot truly be forgotten.

Just before I reached Chinatown, I saw:

This is a high end Vietnamese-French restaurant, and, to my surprise, it was open for lunch.  So I peered in and saw no one, but went in anyway.  Alex welcomed me and I proceeded to begin with a small bottle of Prosecco to accompany escargots:

The bread was sourdough, and this start was deliciously fabulous.  Duc came by to say hi:

Duc Nguyen opened this restaurant 17 years ago.  He gave me his life story. You can bring your own wine, but the corkage charge is $20/bottle.

I then had a Caesar's salad and foie gras accompanied by slivers of papaya with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc:

Instead of an entree, I ended with a creme brulee and double expresso:

What a treat, as my expectation was maybe a manapua or pho for lunch.  This was the best lunch I had since my most memorable lunch ever.

My first scene of Chinatown was Oahu Market, built in 1904:

  I feel a little phobic about this corner because right next to it was the office of my childhood dentist.  Another example of "improvements" to the area:

In the marketplace, sunfish:

This is also known as tilapia. And Dragon Fruit:

It is low in calories and high in Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, antioxidants and fiber, at least as indicated from the link.  I've never had this fruit in my life and should have purchased one, for I'm a dragon.  I did, though, end up taking out chow fun, cold ginger chicken and the world's smallest pork hash (at around 10 o'clock in the second photo below) from Royal Garden:

While watching the USC-Arizona and Florida-Georgia football games, I also had a beer, glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and jigger of Johnny Walker Black Label.  Why?  Because a long time ago, all Chinese banquets placed a full bottle of it on each table.  Also, you will note that the chicken is not chopped into smaller pieces.  I purposely asked them not to do this for fear of some strange disease.  The traditional practice is to wipe the knife and cutting board with a rag...which sometimes looks like it has not been washed for days.

Hurricane Sandy is still a potential Frankenstorm (scroll down to the next article):

The very latest tracking has Sandy making landfall at the coastline between Philadelphia and New York City.  Just a little more north and the worst could happen.


Friday, October 26, 2012


Hurricane Sandy shows all the potential of becoming a real problem and future mega disaster movie.  Remember Perfect Storm, the film starring George Clooney?  Exactly twenty years ago, Hurricane Grace played the role of Sandy in the Halloween Nor'easter of 1991.  In the book by Sebastian Junger, the Andrea Gail, skippered by Clooney, sank in a wave that could have been a 100 feet tall.  This really happened.  That storm created damages of $200 million ($330 million today), killed 13 and damaged hundreds of homes.

It could have been worse, as the eye of the storm itself only made landfall at the very end and over Canada:

Hurricane Sandy is projected to strike the Eastern Seaboard, probably somewhere between Virginia Beach and Atlantic City, but perhaps New York City:

But the band of uncertainty is very broad.  The effect will be widespread, as Sandy is 1600 miles wide, a distance from Los Angeles to Memphis.  Halloween eve (which, worse, is when the Moon is full, meaning higher tides and more monsters) and night will be a mess and the brunt of the impact might actually occur on the same day, November 1, as that '91 Perfect Storm.

The problem is not only Sandy from the East.  There is an Arctic cold front moving in from the Northwest and high Gulf moisture from the South.  Those are the ingredients for a perfect storm.  Thus, as I reported yesterday, a hurricane with snow.  The focus this time will not be in the Atlantic Ocean, but over major cities, such as New York.  Power could be lost for weeks.  A bit of overdramatization, but better to be ready than not.